What the papers say

I am annoyed.  That’s a mild expression of the burning fury that accompanies reading something that is not only inaccurate but so wrong it verges on the dishonest.

I am unable to go into full details so I will take a more general approach.

With the speed of information approaching near terminal velocity the news cycle is closer to spin cycle making a furious amount of noise and generating a lot of insubstantial foam.  In most cases this is from the mouth as instant ‘hot-takes’, comment pieces and the blogs they compete with vie for page views, clicks and shares.

I get it.  As a mere blogger I am subject to my own deadlines, have no editor and have no pressures that real journalists paid for their toil and labour have to experience.

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I have already written about journalistic license here and here but this is different.  This goes beyond self promotion and into the realms of mendacity.

If there is a report about a court case or an employment tribunal then chances are that the judgment for that case is available online. This allows anyone to read the judgment in full and see how certain events or evidence is presented in context.

I suspect that many of the articles written about such cases will be written by non legal specialists. If not then even more brickbats are due for shoddy, lazy and dangerous misreporting.

I appreciate that not everyone is a lawyer or familiar with the legalese used in these judgments but there are many helpful law firms that produce summaries of these judgments and an army of helpful bloggers keen to educate and correct where they see misrepresentation of the law or tabloid froth over sentencing.

I can find all of this information in under 15 minutes. If you have time to write a 2000 word article or hot take in response to that article than you have time to do some basic research.

Useful rule of thumb tip! If you see an article on the law illustrated with a gavel then they probably don’t know what they are talking about (unless it’s an article on auctioneers).

Next!

I watched with alternating amusement and despair at the whirling carousel of nonsense that emerges with the publication of a piece of research. Even people who usually know better were blinded by confirmation bias and took what amounted to a copied and pasted press release at face value.

Within minutes the response articles and blogs came out to explain why this research only confirmed what we already knew. Each piece was a gentle nail into the coffin that had been so lovingly prepared for this day. The usual suspects climbed up on their mighty hobby horse steeds and charged into battle.

A few lone voices familiar with this type of research started to ask the questions that journalists should have asked. Did the main points in the press release match with the research? How many people did this research cover? How many of them were actually eligible in the first place? How representative was the sample? Did the results support the conclusion?

Within a matter of hours the research flaws were identified and the report stripped of its thin meat leaving only shiny bone. This skeleton was then hastily shoved into a cupboard for its passing to be mourned by some very sheepish corrections.

Some journalists are dismissive of the value of bloggers and their self published ways. They may take pride in the high journalistic standards of accuracy. I hope that if they feel that way then they are not responsible for this shoddy copy paste churnalism.

The Internet is not just home to fascinating case judgments and summaries but all sorts of useful materials to help people unfamiliar with the detail or nuances of complex areas have a better understanding.

This may seem picky but accuracy matters. Perceptions are important in shaping behaviour and attitudes. Presenting one side of a story in a way that is divorced from fact is dishonest and dangerous. Poorly presented statistics taken out of context stick in minds and may result in people making choices that aren’t right for them.

We deserve better.

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13 Comments Add yours

  1. I really couldn’t have said this better. I’ve almost stopped reading the papers, and other publications because of this. If I can take ten minutes to make sure a piece of information is factually correct, or at least backed by facts, then why can’t someone who is paid to do that? Or is it because people don’t care anymore and they like sensationalism and drivel and facts come second?
    #effitfriday

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post. The sensationalism is so tiring. We definitely deserve better. -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I miss the days when papers and television news were intended to tell us what was going on, not what they want us to think about what is going on

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fantastic post and I couldn’t agree more. There is one paper in particular that I think is very bad for its very ‘dubious’ reporting, and not so hidden agenda. I think nowadays they are more concerned about creating a sensational headline and scoop and so the factual reporting often gets lost. Our island paper is very bad for doing this and only the other day reported that they are taking away free funding for the nursery places and now parents will have to pay, it was implied that they will be doing it this September and that was the headline on the front of the paper. With a child about to start nursery I saw the headline, panicked and bought the newspaper. There were many parents panicking about where we would find the money for September. Only later did the newspaper clarify that it doesn’t start until next year. Although it is still wrong and they shouldn’t be doing it but my point behind the waffle is that they left this key fact out to create sensation. I think they are particulary bad at their reporting because we don’t have much news on our island and therefore they make sensational stories to sell papers. #marvmondays

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sassy says:

    I have stopped reading the papers, and watching the news for exactly this reason. The media keep shoving their opinions down our throats, instead of giving us the information like they are meant to be, it really annoys me! #AnythingGoes

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I hate the spin and avoidance of the facts from the media that’s become oh so normal now. I don’t want opinions, I want to form my own given the facts, and don’t even start me on the EU referendum! Thanks for linking up to #PoCoLo

    Like

  7. Silly Mummy says:

    Law is what I used to work in, and the accuracy of what is reported about legal cases, crime statistics, criminal justice, the legal system, etc, really does tend to be appalling. Like you, I have always been confused about how even things that would only take a very small amount of understanding and research to get right somehow end up wrong. My parents worked in education, and would say the same about much reporting on education issues. That is the most terrifying thing – when you realise that most people with a specialism in any area feel that the accuracy of reporting on that area is really poor. That’s when you realise just how misled we are by the media in virtually every area. What I am less clear about is whether it is an issue of general stupidity & lack of proper information in the media and journalism, or whether the intent to mislead is deliberate. I think there are examples of both. #AnythingGoes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thanks for your great comment. If we’re generous we could say its more of the former than the latter but in the case I can’t talk about the motivation and presentation was definitley political.

      It’s not all doom though as a few days later more and more articles started to appear picking apart the reporting and firectly referencing the judgment.

      Like

  8. 101 status says:

    Right here is the right blog for anyone who hopes to understand this topic.
    You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue
    with you (not that I personally will need to…HaHa).
    You definitely put a new spin on a subject that has been written about for decades.
    Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve been speaking a lot this week about journalism and the heavy editing that is done. I hate sensationalism and think it doesn’t take too much to check out facts, it’s a fine line between click bait and decent journalism and I know I’d rather have people arrive from wanting to know my thoughts than sensationalism!! (rambling now….)x

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It is all about money at the end of the day – they just want to sell papers, and page views on the internet. It makes me sad to see such things going on. What journalism has become now-a-day. Still I do believe there are people, great journalist out there who do / report things they truly believe. You just need to do your own further research I guess. It is not in black and white anymore – then again nothing ever is. Great post. Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      The question is whether people have the time or will to do that bit of research. Even with distrust in the media people do put stock in what they read and hear. It’s hard not to be affected by the steady drip, drip of messages about topics we only have a little understanding about. That’s ok as long as we accept that it represents the starting point for our knowledge of a subject rather than the whole of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Love this post. So many good points, which unfortunately we see far too often in the things that we read in the press today. A reason why I actually stopped reading so many mainstream papers and articles a few months ago after getting sick of reading blantantly misrepresented, misinterpreted or misunderstood news. Thanks for sharing this on #MarvMondays. Emily

    Liked by 1 person

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